Sunday, May 25, 2014

A summer of bouquets

"... When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table ..."

~ T.S. Eliot, 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'

Last week, on a quintessential summer afternoon, we set out on a picture-taking long ride. As the mocking, piercing late-afternoon sun gradually began melting into a warm, golden twilight, things took a mellow turn. That is when Eliot's timeless poem struck me, when the sprawling, bougainvillea-laced roadside, draped with the pinkish-gold sheen took our breath away. We have always admired this green, wooded patch of about ten kilometres, a road that leads to my alma mater, the University of Hyderabad, but come summer and it turns into a different world altogether. Therefore, only passing by it and admiring nature's patchwork isn't enough; one has to capture their kaleidoscopic glory, the gorgeous pink-and-yellow embroidery of the bougainvilleas and the laburnums. A fine summer bouquet, I call it. Who would believe there's this huge concrete, IT jungle that lies coughing and panting right next to it!

The other bouquets, and none too pleasing as the above, that are looming large in our days is the hullabaloo of an upcoming move to a new city in June. This May marks the exact two years since we wrapped up our lives in Seattle for a much-debated return to the home country and now it's time to move again, to go through that uncomfortable process of leaving the old and adopting the new. And this time, unlike Hyderabad, it's an entirely new city. There's a world out there that doesn't know me and whom I don't know. Despite its claims of being the best city to settle in India for nomadic hearts like us, if you have been reading me for a while you probably know how and to what extent change bothers me. I am a creature of habit. To the core. But hopefully, with friends who go back a long way and with scenic getaways within hours' drives from the city, this time it'll be different. Hopefully, this time I'll be less complaining and more appreciative of my surroundings. Hopefully, this time I'll have a tree by my window and can watch the sky puff and roar when it rains. Hopefully.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Of books and writers

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and the sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” 

Ernest Hemingway

It rained yesterday, a good, earthy summer rain. It has been raining now and then since the last couple of weeks - the first moody spells of the year that have washed away the lifeless, sun-baked stagnancy off one and all. I hope they'll wipe the dusty panes of my mind too, and let me see the world more clearly so that some calm can be restored in my writing/blogging hours.
And so, somewhere between waiting for it to pour while grumpily editing a convoluted manuscript and the echoing persuasions of "you should write more often" from friends and family, these strikingly illuminating words of Hemingway happened. They further took me down memory lane, to a good ten years back when I had to present a paper on Hemingway's short stories as part of the semester-end evaluation for our Modern American Literature course. As an ode to his bizarre, very shortly-written short stories (there are some that are barely a page long), the title of my paper chuckled, 'The Difficulties of Reading Hemingway'. Being someone who worshiped Hardy and Keats and tried to emulate their romanticism, I wasn't too enthusiastic then about his curbed expressions and economic usage of words. Literature meant to describe, to paint a world laced with words. I remember the awkward look of our professor, who was quite the proverbial taskmaster, when very emphatically I ended my talk with how the great writer of his times finally shot himself in the head. Yes, I was that thoroughly tired of his brilliance that apparently the whole world got, but me. In stark contrast, over the recent years, I'm amazed at the candour that I find in his writing. The very understated style that once annoyed me now astonishes me - the art of saying so much in just a handful of words.
Not for nothing they say, you don't read a book once. As you grow, so does its world and the characters living inside it.

PS. My current reading stupour comes from Elif Shafak's The Bastard of Istanbul. A plot that skids between two completely different geographies - Istanbul and Arizona (peppered with bits of San Francisco as well) - and houses at least thirty characters of which about fifteen carry the narrative forward, it's a whirlwind of a read. At times I felt the urgent need of drawing a family tree so as to not lose track of who was where and when. But like I have said here before, the element that tugged at my heart amid this chaos was Istanbul - its charming cobbled streets, the call of the simit seller, the greedy seagulls hovering over a ferry on the Bosphorus, and the history that coats almost every building of the city. There lies the pull of the novel. So yes, go for the atmosphere and for a detailed critique of the general Turkish attitude toward the Armenian genocide.  

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